Research published 20 years ago linking MMR and autism is scaring a whole new generation, thanks to social media and a lack of faith in experts allowing the spread of pseudo-science and long discredited views.
The campaign to see Polio join smallpox in being eradicated globally is at a critical stage, yet efforts fail if people reject immunisation. Killer diseases like Polio and measles can return if rejection of immunisation spreads and battles against diseases once thought won have to be fought all over again. Faced with such concerns, The British Polio Fellowship says the time for pulling punches with the anti-vax movement is past.
“A Polio vaccine came too late for me and others in The British Polio Fellowship,” said National Chairman of The British Polio Fellowship, David Mitchell. “Those of us who survived faced a life of paralysis and now live with Post Polio Syndrome (PPS). Vaccination is saving millions from a similar fate but failing to challenge anti-vaccination views, risks going back to the bad old days. Those of us who remember them have a duty to support scientists in challenging vaccination refusers and the means they use to lie to the public.”
79 percent trust scientists to tell the truth but only 12 percent seek scientific answers, preferring instead to consult ‘Dr Google’ and social media. While harmless for advice on hotels and holidays, bypassing experts seeking online opinion on immunisation is dangerous. A ‘Zika hoax’ fake news article had 530,000 views online; compared with just 43,000 who saw the facts posted by the World Health Organisation; while the Ebola vaccine was disregarded by many in Africa by those following social media advice to try ‘salt and bitter melon’ instead.
“They had to find an ambulance driver prepared to risk taking me to hospital, such was the fear of Polio,” said David. “It took famous people in the 50s to persuade people to put aside their fears of vaccination and we should not be fighting these old battles again. With victory over Polio so close, the battle to support vaccination is one we cannot afford to lose, and not just for Polio. The next big pandemic could be around the corner and without vaccination, we are defenceless,” David concluded.